Continuing our Best Of 2013 honours.
Wywires Gold/Platinum Series: I particularly liked these cables, be it as Digital, Loudspeaker cables, or Interconnects. However, I loved the them Digital and Loudspeaker cables most. The sound is fluid, with excellent resolution and poise. Refining factor is high and dynamics(both macro & micro) almighty. They certainly keep up with those reference Skorgrands(last year’s winner) in every single way, except for mid range density and vocal richness, which to some the latter is just right and the former overripe. Bass quality is at once bold and solid altogether, laying a strong foundation for the music event to build it’s layers upon. Sound staging and imaging qualities are first class, doing the “you are there” teleportation trick. Each cable is hand made in the US with quality materials upon receiving your order, they don’t however, come cheap!
Vermouth Red Velvet: This is the bass king from Bali! Designed and each lovingly hand made by Hendri Ramli using bespoke quality connectors which are CNC machined in house, the bright red sleeving is daring and bold to look at, just like how it sounds to my ears. Like I said, this is a speaker for bass kings! Tight, fast and hard hitting with extreme lows, resulting a highly textured with full harmonics in the lows. Mid range is clear and up front, but the highs(this is always where the top stuff have the advantage) are not as smooth nor refined as the Wywires Gold/Platinum. Staging and Imaging are not as liquid as the Wywires, but it gets pretty close. What is not close though is the price, these Red Velvets are highly affordable by comparison. They are now my daily reference cables.
Taralabs TL-2D: These are probably nearly the best value to performance ratio digital cables I’ve tested to date. They bring a very high degree of the above Wywires performance for a fraction of the asking price. I cannot explain why one need to spend so………….. much on ultimate performance, but if one know when to stop, the Taralabs TL-2D is certain a great choice.
Nu Force NE-700M: My darling daughter tells me these are no longer cool phones, big ostenstiuos head phones are the way to go for the “hip & happening crowd”. However, the Nu Force still sounds superb to my ears in every way, powered by my iPhone 5, of course! Strong low bass , crystal clear mids and smooth airy highs make this Nu Force, every bit as enjoyable compared to listening to my full on hifi set. As it tries to cover as low octave as possible, the loudness level has to be toned down sometimes, or the bass lines gets a bit overblown otherwise. This is a pair of tonally neutral ear phone with dynamic punch to excite all music genre. MP3 files never sounded so.. good.
XTZ Earphone-12: Actually, it was hard to call which is better, but I decided the Nu Force is the better all rounder when it comes to music reproduction and being genre blind. You see, the XTZ hits harder at the bass and is absolutely more dynamic, making music more exciting all together, which is great for pop or rock music, but lacks the overall refinement at the top end to make those audiophile music like jazz or classical shine. And if you like it LOUD, this is the ear phone for you!
JVC HA-DX2000: These are up market classy affair ear(not bra!) cups. They are made from pine wood which has certain resonance frequency to give music a warm and mellow flavour, making em’ especially good with vocal music. However their revealing nature can be taken as a double edge sword, rewarding the listener with well recorded music,and unforgiving with piss poor MP3 files which covers most of today’s popular music. When playing classical or jazz repertoire, or any audiophile ambition recordings, the results are truly satisfying for the aural senses. A good head phone like the JVC is best used with a dedicated head amp for best results. It reminds us that JVC once had it’s roots as a hifi company.
Marantz UD 5007: The Marantz UD 5007 Bluray player offers excellent picture and sound quality for a mid range priced unit. Well built with high quality finishing and equipped with one of the smoothest disc tray in the business, the Marantz is styled to look like a Hollywood glamour girl, with pouty red lips. It offers some of the best depth and layering perception on screen, with well rounded 3D picture quality that’s a class above others. The picture is smoothly detailed with rich saturated(not overly so) colours and realistic flesh tones that makes long movies viewing a sheer pleasure to the eyes. The Marantz also delivers great SACD sound via analog outputs, making it a serious music player too. It’s now capable of networking to a NAS movie storage system as well.
Pioneer BDP-450: This ia a mid range unit from Pioneer, sitting just below the top dog LX-55. It matches the above Marantz blow for blow when it comes to picture quality, but with the following exceptions. The Pioneer has sharper imaging outlines, rendering the depth layering perception less organic in quality. The Pioneer has a slightly flimsy tray, and a temperamental remote action response. Otherwise, the Pioneer is well built with it’s aluminium face plate and 2U steel construction. The Pioneer BDP-450 makes a great SACD player too, but only via HDMI out. It has network capabilities too. My current daily AV reference.
Pioneer BDP-160: My former reference unit, shares most of the features of the BDP-450, but it’s more evidently built to a lower price point, but still not bad considering it’s entry level asking price. The picture interlace noise is certainly more evident compared to it’s bigger brother metioned above, but still better than all of the Korean or un-branded offerings out there. It suffers from the same flimsy tray and the temperamental remote action, all from the same Pioneer DNA. If you’re a videophile on a budget, there’s no better than this, or should I say no point at all to go any lower than the Pioneer BDP-160.
Marantz SR7008: This is one of the ultimate AV Receivers money can buy, with 9.2 Chanel(not that you’ll need them all) plus a home network supporting features and 4k ready. Great center Chanel clarity(you can still clearly follow the speech, even in full blown bang bang boom scenes) and excellent music reproduction marks it as a stand out product. And the .2 means it will support a pair of subs too, for the full rumble in Bronx experience. A full feature of inputs and outputs to cater to the most elaborate of AV installs.
Denon AVR1613: This is my current daily reference unit which is serving me well. A budget unit with only 5.1 Chanel capabilities, but that’s all I need for now offers reasonable high standard of surround audio experience. With a good power cord, it never seems to run out of steam, despite the modest amount of watts on offer. Now with improved GUI for easier menu navigation.
JVC DLA-RS48: This is the cheapest 4K projector your money can buy for now. Viewed thru 2:35 ratio lens, the performance is anything but cheap. It has rich saturated color pallate and great skin tones, with excellent picture depth portrayal(a good screen is a must). Great for all those epic movies with scenes depicting the wild, natural landscapes(the movie Zulu comes to mind). Also 3D capable.
BenQ W7000: This is one of the best 16:9 ratio projectors I’ve seen thus far. It can strecth to very big screen sizes, yet maintains full focus with fast moving pictures. The picture presentation are at once bright, high contrast and vibrant. Great for those who want big, big screens on beer budget.
Panasonic TC P65-VT60: This plasma has everything in terms of picture quality that a videophile can want in their wet dreams! Smooth pixelation and colour gradient is the first thing one notices. The blackness level matches the still legendary reference Pioneer Kuros of the years gone by, now the results are inherited by Panasonic and manifested in it’s final form of the VT class displays. This color is richly saturated and the screen give excellent depth portrayal of epic landscape scenes. Too bad this is probably the last of it’s kind, so buy one now if you can. The only down side is that it’s expensive for a 65 inches display, and the much cheaper TC P65-ST60 achieves nearly all that it’s glamour VT class sibling can do for about 60% of the price.
Note that no sub woofers or AV speaker packages were presented to us for reviews last year. However, here are a few notable mentions that I have experienced:
JL Audio Fathom F113: The most brutal sub woofer ever available for home theater. Pounds thru the body heart, and soul like now other. Sub tereanean bass will feel the same again ever. Makes watching movies feel like 4D thrill ride! Must be experienced at lest once in a lifetime!
SVS PB-13 Ultra: Here’s another sub woofer that will change one’s movies enjoyment levels, but without costing an arm and a leg. It doesn’t dive as low or hit as hard the above JL Audio, but at only 30% of the price, who can argue with that? Despite it’s short of the best claimed by JL Audio, the SVS still stands proud to be second best in this case, because you can spend a whole lot more for less sub bass performance. The thinking man’s high performance sub? Certainly so!
With these, marks the end of our Best of 2013 round up. Congrats to all the products listed here.
Article by WL Low